Dooley’s Dozen: 12 best specialists in Florida football history

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We hear all the time that football is about three things: offense, defense and special teams.

But as we watch SEC media days in Atlanta, did anyone else notice there are no special teamers invited among the 42 stars over four days?

Well, this is not unusual. I went back and looked at the last 10 SEC media days. There were four kickers and punters who made an appearance:

* Punter Drew Kaser of Texas A&M in 2014.

* Kicker Elliott Fry of South Carolina in 2015.

* Kicker Daniel Carlson of Auburn in 2017.

* Punter Braden Mann of Texas A&M in 2019.

Now, to be fair, there are players who have been invited and went on to make a mark on special teams, usually wide receivers who returned kicks in their spare time.

In many cases, there are coaches who right now have no real answer as to who will run back punts and kickoffs.

We all know how important special teams are and how mediocre they have been around Gainesville since Urban Meyer left. Which makes us long for the old days and pushed the Dooley’s Dozen to come up with the 12 best specialists in UF history.

Carlos Dunlap

Doug Benc/Getty Images

This was an example of how Meyer used his stars as effective special teams players. He did it with [autotag]Jarvis Moss[/autotag] and certainly with Dunlap, who blocked three kicks in one season and affected dozens more. That was a big paw getting in the way.

Antonio Callaway

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In the history of Florida football, there has never been a player who made more big plays while constantly finding his way into trouble. That included special teams, where Callaway had punt returns for touchdowns against LSU and Alabama and ran an onside kick back for another score.

Sam McCorkle

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Now a college football coach, McCorkle was a player who took great pride in his role as the leader of the special teams. His four career blocked kicks are tied for second in UF history and he was a tackling machine on returns.

Lito Sheppard

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Sometimes I wonder if Florida should have played Sheppard on offense more often. He was magic with the ball in his hands during the SEC championship season in 2000. The one against South Carolina as the half ran out left Lou Holtz in open-mouthed disbelief.

Johnny Townsend

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I had to get a punter on here and thought about Ray Criswell, but Townsend the Elder is Florida’s all-time leader in punting average and it wasn’t like he only had a few. He is also the career leader in punts attempted.

Evan McPherson

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, it is true he missed that kick against LSU, but he still made 51 of 60. [autotag]Eddie Piniero[/autotag] had a better percentage, but McPherson always seemed to be lining up for a long field goal that Florida desperately needed.

Andre Debose

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

When it came to running in a straight line, Debose was as good as they came. His speed allowed him to get to the hole quickly on kickoff returns and then it was goodbye. He returned four for touchdowns, including a 100-yarder and two that went 99. He also had two of UF’s best seasons according to average per return.

Caleb Sturgis

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

My St. Augustine guy has to be on this list (his dad and I were high school and junior college buddies), but the main reason is that nobody made more kicks in a career or in a season. He is also one of only eight UF kickers to hit a game-winner with under a minute to play.

Chris Rainey

AP Photo Jim Lytle

Every once in a while, I go watch some old UF games just to see the way Rainey could squirm through a hole to block a kick. He got to six, the most of any player in Florida history. When he was used as a returner, he was scary dangerous.

Steve Tannen

Syndication: Nashville

When opposing teams were ready to punt, they had to find Tannen. Because either he was going to come off the edge and try to block it (he told me he really studied the angles) or go back to return it and have a shot at going all the way (for example, 82 yards against Vanderbilt).

Jacquez Green

Scott Halleran/Allsport

Like Tannen, ‘Quez did it both ways. In 1995 he blocked three kicks and also returned some kickoffs. The following year, he was a dominant punt returner who returned two for touchdowns against Kentucky. Then, as the top receiver in ’97, he returned two more for scores.

Brandon James

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The best of the best and a recent inductee to the UF Hall of Fame, James has the most career kick return yards and punt return yards. That’s difficult to beat. Why Tennessee kicked him the ball every year is still a mystery.

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